Some Thoughts on “Frozen”
I missed the Disney animated film “Frozen” on its first run through theaters. It just didn’t look that interesting to me, despite the positive reviews and strong word-of-mouth. Every once in a while I would glance at the movie listings, notice that “Frozen” was still playing and think, “Maybe I should see that.” But I never quite got around to it.
I came to regret this decision. “Frozen” has become a global phenomenon, beloved by people of all ages, and I felt that I was missing out on a major cinematic experience. So when I noticed that the Madison Theatre in Albany was showing the film this week for just $5, I decided to go. And I’m glad I did.
“Frozen” is splendid entertainment, a clever, emotionally satisfying and visually dazzling reworking of Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale “The Snow Queen.” Sitting in a theater filled with children, young adults and older couples, it was easy to see why people love it. At times, it feels contemporary and current. And at other times it feels like a throwback — in a good way — to Disney’s older princess films. “It’s pretty magical, isn’t it?” remarked an acquaintance I ran into as I was exited the theater.
“Frozen” has a brisk pace, lots of action and interesting and complicated characters. As good as the storytelling and animation are, I suspect that it’s the characters, particularly the two sisters at the heart of the story, that really draw people into the film and make them fall in love with it.
The movie opens in childhood, when the younger sister, Anna, is very close to her older sister, Elsa, and the two play together all the time. Elsa has the ability to create snow and ice, and during one of their games she injures Anna, who becomes very cold. Their parents make a visit to the troll king, who cures Anna. From then on, Elsa keeps her distance from her younger sister, because she doesn’t want to hurt her. The film then jumps forward in time, to Elsa’s coronation ceremony, which is a complete disaster — Elsa accidentally reveals her powers, is called a witch, runs away to the mountains and places the kingdom in permanent winter. Anna heads out in search of her, accompanied by a handsome, somewhat misanthropic ice salesman and his reindeer. They are eventually joined by a talking snowman named Olaf who guides them to the ice castle Elsa has built for herself.
As tales go, this is a good one. But what it’s the characters who bring it to life. Elsa is a good person, but the film doesn’t shy away from depicting her as someone who can cause great damage. Anna is tough-minded but also impulsive, which occasionally brings on unnecessary trouble, as when she hurls a snowball at a nasty ice giant. At first, I wondered whether “Frozen” really needed both a comical-yet-noble reindeer and a goofy-yet-sometimes-wise snowman, but by the end of the film I decided that, yes, it did.
Olaf really comes alive in the second half of the film, transforming from a silly sidekick into a stalwart and brave friend. He utters what is arguably the best line in the movie — “Some people are worth melting for” — which inspired scattered applause in the screening I attended.
Much has been made of the songs in “Frozen,” and while I can see why people like them, this style of musical is not usually my thing. The songs were catchy enough, and the filmmakers used them well, but I don’t think I’m going to be running out to buy the soundtrack so I can blast “Let It Go” anytime soon. Although I really enjoyed “Let It Go’s” underlying message, about throwing off parental and societal restraints and just being yourself. (Sample lyric: “It’s time to see what I can do/ To test the limits and break through.”) And if that person happens to be a powerful ice queen, well, so be it.
“Frozen” contains other messages that are worth hearing. There’s a smart argument between Anna and the ice salesman about whether it’s a good idea to decide to marry someone you’ve only known for a few hours, and I’ve already mentioned my favorite piece of dialogue, about how some people are worth melting for. What makes this line so noteworthy is that the film isn’t just talking about romantic love, but about the love between siblings and friends. The ice salesman is willing to sacrifice himself for Anna, but so is Olaf, and Anna is more than willing to sacrifice herself for Elsa. And in the end it is the love between sisters that saves the day, along with some vital assistance from good friends.
“Frozen” is destined to become an animated classic, and deservedly so.
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